Family Soldiers: 1/4th Essex (WW2) & 25 Field Regiment R.A.(Post-War)

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by Charley Fortnum, Mar 21, 2015.

  1. Amy Rose

    Amy Rose New Member

    Hi All

    I was hoping some of you may be able to help me interpret my grandad's tracer card. I think this thread may be relevant as it appears he was in the 25th Regiment R.A. between 1948-1951.I'd be really interested to understand how I can work out where he was and when. We know there was a period (unsure how long) that he was held captive during this time.

    In particular, might someone be able to explain the abbreviation: DBATX?

    Thank you

    Amy
     

    Attached Files:

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  2. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Amy, I'm glad to see you post here.

    It looks as if your grandfather was part of the same draft as mine (they left the UK on the same date).

    I don't know what DBATX is, but it's likely some kind of 'draft code' that refers to a group of soldiers being sent to the Far East from the UK.

    I can tell you for certain that he joined 25 Fd Regt R.A. in the New Territories, Hong Kong (that's the bit that shares a land border with China). I also strongly suspect, given the dates, that he was also in the same battery as my grandfather: 54 (Maharajapore) Field Bty, which also means he left Hong Kong and arrived in Malaya on 1/10/50.

    The date the tracer card shows him as S.O.S. FARELF (Struck of Strength Far East Land Forces) is the day after the battery finished service in Malaya, so he would have left the country by ship via Singapore.

    If he was held captive, it was very likely while in Korea with 20 Fd Regt.

    I have a lot more detail, so I'll message you my address.

    Ultimately, you'll want to apply to the MoD for his service records. The process, alas, is long, but the first steps are here:

    Request records of deceased service personnel

    (assuming he is no longer with us).

    Edit: check your inbox for a message.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2020
  3. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    LCpl EB 'Nutty' Hazle was a medic and was awarded his second DCM on Monastery Hill in the Third Battle of Cassino in Mar 44. Awesome courage.

    Frank
     
  4. Amy Rose

    Amy Rose New Member


    Hi James

    Just to add to my message - I actually found records of my grandad's 'incident'. It was during his time with 25th regiment - the link is here: "2 SOLDIERS HELD"

    Strangely, it says he was arrested 40 miles north of Hong Kong. Not sure what he would have been up to there?!

    Is anyone aware of where I might be able to research more of this?

    Thanks

    Amy
     
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  5. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Amazingly, I have some information about this first-hand from another gunner with 25 Field Regt.

    Your grandfather's nickname was Tiger.

    Apparently--at least to the younger soldiers, and probably owing to his experience in the Second World War--he was viewed as the sort of chap who 'knew his way around' pretty much everywhere.

    He and his friend deserted from the tented camp in Fanling (next to the golf course), crossed the border into China and entered Canton.

    Their timing, however, was pretty poor: this was late 1949, when the communists were just arriving; both men were soon arrested and (rather charitably) sent back to Hong Kong.

    The twist, however, was that as they were able to provide valuable information to British Intelligence on the situation in the city, they were both given relatively light sentences despite the seriousness of the crime!

    I do have a couple more specifics, but I'll need to double check before passing them on.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2020
  6. Amy Rose

    Amy Rose New Member

    Hahaha! Oh dear. Family of reprobates!! This has made my day.

    Thank you very much indeed, it's really appreciated.
     
  7. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    This sketch is duplicated by private message. I've tried to keep it simple and avoid jargon. Apologies if this has meant that I've stated the obvious in places.

    25 Field Regiment R.A. was a FIELD REGIMENT made up of three FIELD BATTERIES:
    • 35 Battery
    • 54 (Maharajapore) Battery
    • 93 Battery
    'Maharajapore' is a battle honour: a title awarded to a unit for fighting an important action. See here for this one: Royal Artillery Association

    There was also the command and support element of the regiment: RHQ (Regimental Headquarters).

    Each of the three FIELD BATTERIES was sub-divided into two TROOPS (as follows):
    • 35 Battery: A (Able) & B (Baker) Troops.
    • 54 Battery: C (Charlie) & D (Dog) Troops.
    • 94 Battery: E (Easy) & F (Fox) Troops.
    I was unable to ascertain which battery my grandfather was with directly from his service records. It was the dates in his paybook and the unit paperwork that allowed me to deduce it.

    The commanding officers during this period were:
    • Lieutenant Colonel J.H. Beattie (15.1.47 to 1949)
    • Lieutenant Colonel J.D.A. Lamont (1949 to 1950)
    • Lieutenant Colonel E.S. Turner (23.6.50 to 27.5.53) [AKA "Epsom Salts"]
    At this time, 25 Field Regiment was understrength (below the established manpower) and working on a 'lower establishment' at any rate, which means that they weren't expected to be at 'full-size'. During the Second World War, a field regiment at full strength would have had something like 720 officers and men; 25 Field Regiment in Hong Kong would likely have had fewer than six hundred men, and it was operating only three guns per troop (not 4), for a grand total of 18 guns (as opposed to the standard 24). Their primary guns were the famous 25-pounders: Ordnance QF 25-pounder - Wikipedia, but they also operated (at various times) 17-pounders, the 3.7 Anti-Aircraft & (in Malaya) the 5.5 Medium. [Edit: not a bad estimate. The FARELF RA paperwork gives 510 ORs and 30 Officers as the standard lower establishment]

    25 Field Regt was in Hong Kong before either of our grandfathers arrived, but it's important to note that the unit had been 'redesignated', which means that its name/number had been changed, so any reference you see to 25 Field Regt in, say, the Second World War is NOT the same unit. The 25 Field Regt with which we are concerned came into being 1.4.47 from what had previously been named 27 Field Regt., who had come across to Hong Kong from Burma on 3/1/47 in HMT Dilwara.

    From arrival, 27 Field Regt (soon to become 25 Field) were quartered at Stanley for a few weeks and then were split between The Gun Club Hill Barracks in Kowloon (most of the men) and Whitfield Barracks (most of the sergeants and officers). For the latter see here: Whitfield Barracks - Wikipedia. They were old, draughty, run-down and unpopular! One of their duties while at Whitfield was guarding the network of tunnels beneath the barracks themselves.

    As will become clear, there was a massive build up of British forces in Hong Kong during 1949, when Mao's People's Liberation Army stood poised to defeat Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists (who, you recall, retreated to Formosa, now Taiwan) in the Chinese Civil War. This, indeed, they did by the start of October, and the big question for the British was whether they would attempt to re-take the Crown Colony. The formation assembled to ensure (by both bluff and by force) that they didn't was 40th Infantry Division, of which 25 Field Regiment became a part, but the unit was already present, and as part of the permanent garrison it would have been there regardless of whether 'an emergency' had developed or not.

    Out of completeness, I'll note that the other (infantry) elements of the garrison were:

    1st Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)
    2nd/6th Gurkha Rifles
    2nd/10th Gurkha Rifles

    I'll return to the subject of 40th Division later.

    In April 1947, the remainder of 25 Field Regiment moved from Whitfield Barracks to the Gun Club Hill Barracks, Hong Kong. See here: Gun Club Hill Barracks - Wikipedia. They were also old, but a bit classier and better maintained.

    At this point, it might be worth checking a map if you haven't visited Hong Kong. Confusingly, although the name often refers to the whole territory, Hong Kong Island is the main island in the south of the territory, and not where most of the military activity was. We'll most often be talking here of Kowloon (see the two barracks above) and the New Territories, the name for the large areas to the north of the territory, some of which share a land border with mainland China.

    At some point in 1949, the unit moved north from Kowloon to Fanling in the New Territories. It looks likely that prior to the move they had been sending each of their batteries on rotation to support the three infantry battalions listed above. I know for certain that 54-bty was based in Tai Lam in December 1948, but I can't say when they arrived and how long they stayed. It has been extremely difficult to pinpoint which camp the regiment were using when they moved as a whole out of Kowloon ('Fanling Camp' is a name applied to several), but I've come to suppose that it was probably located in the area around Fanling Lodge. Built as the summer home of the Governor, it later became the premises of the Agricultural College (or the 'Rural Teachers' Training College'): Fanling Lodge - Wikipedia.

    In any case, although there were some metal huts, most men were under canvas, which is lovely until a typhoon arrives. Everybody who ever mentions the place says that it was 'right next to the golf course', and Fanling Lodge is literally enveloped by it.

    This area formed the 'front door' for the whole territory and was where any incursion from the People's Liberation Army would be fought first. Of particular strategic importance was the Fanling Highway that runs from Fanling to the port of Tai Po. The mountains that overlook the road were deemed crucial and had to be held at all costs (and retaken if lost). Some had rather romantic English names like 'Bird Hill', 'Cloudy Hill' and 'Robin's Nest' that belied the fact that it was a bit rough camping out up there. They had machine gun nests and 'donkey's ears' binoculars to observe whatever was (normally wasn't) happening below. Part of the regiment's work was to man observation posts on these lofty peaks and observe movement around the border as well as control artillery fire in the event of hostilities.

    Also, although it was mainly an issue for the police, the constant trickle of refugees crossing the border grew to a torrent that year, and, as far as possible, their arrival was processed and screened. For most of this period, the regiment was supporting the 26 Gurkha Brigade (formed July 1948), which came to comprise:

    1st Battalion, The Buffs (Later, briefly, 1st Cameronians)
    2nd/6th Battalion, Gurkha Rifles
    2nd/10th Battalion, Gurkha Rifles

    They would again serve in 26 Gurkha Brigade in Malaya under very different circumstances. For now, there were several full-scale training exercises to simulate the response and counter-attack to any Chinese attack, an awful lot of sport, and a fair amount of free-time for the men, many of whom were still young, including a lot of 'first-wave' national servicemen. My impression is that although a few hated it--or certainly hated elements of army life overseas: food, pay, discipline etc.--the majority enjoyed the experience. Beer was affordable, the climate was tolerable if humid come summer, and the locals more generally friendly than not.

    In mid-1950 the Korean War broke out and the situation in Malaya ('the Emergency') worsened. Short of manpower (and what they had was too distant), the British Government decided that the threat from China had abated significantly enough to spare units from Hong Kong to support the Americans and South Koreans, who were very much on the back foot (this started in August), and reinforce Malaya. This necessitated a divisional reorganisation and a move for 25 Field Regt back to Whitfield Barracks in Kowloon on 6.6.50. They replaced 3rd Commando Brigade (40, 42 & 45 Commandos), who left for Malaya in May. Their new duties were mainly military police work ('Aid to the Civil Power' AKA Internal Security) in the town and the hills to the north and east. This included anti-riot preparations and crowd control: persuading protestors to disperse via loud-hailers on trucks and the threat of gunfire, which was never required. One ex-gunner with 93-bty recalls unfurling banners in Chinese from the back of their 3-tonners at the New Year. There was a fear that even if war with the Chinese did not ultimately develop, a 'fifth column' of local communists might foment civil unrest, which meant that the HK Police and Military Intelligence had a lot on their plates; 25 Field Regt were on hand if called upon to provide a strong arm. There were other, less-physical tasks at hand, too. One of the commandos' last tasks before leaving Kowloon, for instance, was to conduct the first post-war census, and 25 Field also assisted the River Police at times.

    Next: a classic British cock-up.

    In August 1950, plans were made for 25 Field Regiment to redeploy to Malaya and relieve 26 Field Regiment, who had been operating in Negri Sembilan, a south-western province of Peninsular Malaya, since the Japanese had surrendered in 1945. Curiously, however, they had been operating not as gunners but as jungle-patrolling infantry (latterly dubbed 'infantillery', but I can't say whether this description was contemporary). The plan was for the two regiments to 'swap places', battery by battery over a period of three months, and, accordingly, 54 Battery sailed on 26.9.50, reaching Tampin in Negri Sembilan on 1.10.50. Alas, days later, the plan for the units to swap was scrapped and 54 Battery was left stranded--and without their guns, which had not yet shipped! Rather than bring them back, it was decided that they would remain, attached to 26 Field Regiment and learn their trade against the C.T.s (communist terrorists).

    More to follow.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2021
  8. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Here's a few illustrations for the wall of text above.

    The main armament:

    25 Pounder.jpeg

    The structure of a Field Regiment (wartime establishment):

    Fd Regt Structure.gif

    Whitfield Barracks:

    Rawson HK 2.jpg [Whitfield].jpg

    The Gun Club Hill Barracks:

    25 Field Regt HQ in Gun Club barracks 1954.jpg

    Fanling Station:

    Fanling Station.jpeg

    An observation post in the New Territories:

    hongkong1951-17.jpg

    Looking towards the border in the New Territories:

    View looking north towards China. Around Fanling camp (1954-56).jpg
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2020
  9. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Continued:

    54 Battery sailed from Hong Kong to Singapore on the Empire Orwell and moved up to Tampin, Negri Sembilan, arriving on 1.10.50. The intention, you recall, was originally for 25 Field Regt to 'swap' with 26 Field Regt battery by battery. The first such exchange was to be between 54-bty and 159-bty, but having trained their replacements, handed over their 'parish' and left for Singapore to sail, the advance party of 159-bty were literally called back from the gangway at the dock when the news arrived that the move had been cancelled. They were somewhat displeased by this!

    At this point--to the chagrin of their Commanding Officer back in Hong Kong--the battery was split and deployed as two separate troops (C & D, you recall).

    C-Troop were sent to GAN KEE (Rubber) ESTATE on 17.10.50 and moved south-east on to KAYU ESTATE at the end of the month. There was a brief gunfight with bandits at this later location and one man was wounded and evacuated. I have a good account of this action from the pen of the wounded man himself.

    D-Troop, meanwhile, operated from TAMPIN Camp, like C-Troop, patrolling the local jungle as infantry in search of C.T.s (Communist Terrorists).

    From 5.11.50 to 7.12.50, the battery was reunited as both troops actively patrolled the railway line between TAMPIN and GEMAS, which had been a frequent target for terrorist attacks, derailments being quite common. The enemy would also lay in wait to 'shoot up' passing trains and occasionally burn down stations by night. Assuming they operated as 26 Field Regt did, 54-bty would have conducted foot-patrols along the railway, searching for (and deterring) saboteurs, and provided armed escorts on the trains with powerful searchlights at night. Other units covered other stretches of the line.

    During November, the powers that be decided that 54-bty would contribute more as proper gunners, and they began retraining with their guns for an artillery role. This began immediately on their return to Tampin and continued from 8.12.50 until the end of January 1951. Given the density of jungle, the artillery was typically used to 'flush' the enemy from known locations into pre-set ambushes by the infantry or to speculatively fire on probable locations and 'stir up' activity that could be observed and noted. Some of this would be in response to intelligence provided by the local police. Alas, 54-bty was again split into its component troops for this role, and both travelled extensively to support various units and operations all over the region. The guns themselves (mainly 25-pdrs) were towed by open-topped gun tractors (almost invariably dubbed 'quads') of Canadian manufacture (curiously). The troops would typically stay in one location only for the duration of the operation, which would run from 1 to 5 days, and then move onto the next. There isn't much of a pattern, but they spent a lot of time supporting both Gurkha and Commando Brigades, being, themselves members of 26 Gurkha Brigade, which had now moved down from Hong Kong. That said, come April, the South Malaya Sub-District that covered their base in Tampin was given over to 63 Gurkha Brigade under Brigadier R.G. Collingwood DSO.

    By April, C-Troop was in South Johore, firing (a lot) in support of 26 Gurkha Brigade, while D-Troop was in Malacca for a while to cover additional Internal Security that was required for the appeal in the MARIA HERTOGH trial. 26 Field Regt also provided manpower for this task before they handed over their work to the Green Howards and set out for a spell in Singapore and then Libya. See here: Maria Hertogh - Wikipedia

    May saw C-Troop firing in support of 63 Gurkha Brigade back in Negri Sembilan, while D-Troop were in Pahang, supporting two battalions of the Malay Regiment.

    The battery earned a break for the first half of June, but then returned to work with C-Troop back in South Johore with 26 Brigade again and D-Troop in Perak with 3 Commando Brigade. Both operations came to an end on 20.7.51, but no sooner had D-Troop arrived back in Tampin than they were sent back to Perak, this time to support 63 Brigades--they must have been sick to death of bumpy tracks. To give you an idea of the level of activity, C-Troop fired some 4,900 rounds during this six-week period.

    20-7.51 to 26.7.51 was the final week, spent on preparation for inspection and the handover of duties to 93-bty from Hong Kong.

    93-bty disembarked in Singapore on 1.8.51, crossing over with 54-bty who arrived in Hong Kong on 3.8.51. They returned to Whitfield Barracks and resumed internal security duties in Hong Kong.

    Despite being one battery 'light', 25 Field Regiment won the major units cricket league in 1951.

    In Hong Kong, your grandfather would have worn first the rather fetching Hong Kong Land Forces patch, then, at some point in 1949, the divisional patches for 40 Infantry Division. While in Malaya he eventually would have changed over to either the 26th or the 63rd Gurkha Brigade patches, which varied--I think--only in colour. The one shown below is the 63rd. The rooster/cockerel stems from the fact that the original 40th Division (during the First World War) was a bantam division.

    Screenshot 2020-05-29 at 00.50.53.png post-2272-125448636974.jpg british-63-gurkha-brig.jpg

    Here's a shot of the railway near Tampin.

    BJL540302-55206-Nr Tampin-130854.jpg

    And this is what happened if they didn't do their jobs (derailment near Gemas).

    K 12991 Some of the seven coaches of the day mail train that was derailed near Gemas in Johore.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2021
  10. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    This from Jim Ross, a Kiwi officer attached to 54-bty in Hong Kong and Malaya:

    We were told that the French tactics in Viet Nam were to garrison the lines of communication and settlements, whereas ours were to get into the jungle, keep the foe on the move, and prevent him concentrating in large bodies, which we did. Patrolling was a very scouting affair, with emphasis on jungle navigation (different from ordinary map reading) and tracking. Because of the warm weather we travelled light, with only basic web and haversack, in contrast to the ludicrous 80 kg load the present infantryman, we are told, carries. As movement at night was impossible, we always camped down, or "basha'd up" about 4pm and had a good night's sleep. Rationing was by air drop every 3 days. "Compo" rations were good, but my favourite was the "all races 2-man-day" which contained lots of curry. I was surprised by the cheerful attitude of the British soldiers: after a day wading through horrid swamps, they reckoned that was preferable to "them parade-grounds in Blighty".

    The CTs then started derailing trains which they did by unfastening the fish plates and moving the rails out of alignment, so we had to carry out long treks on the railway each night - 26 paces - fish plate - fish plate again and again. Some old and new small arms were used, including the cup discharger firing a 36 grenade, and silenced Sten guns, useful for leading scouts to kill a couple of CTs in an encounter before the rest could react. The Police also used automatic shotguns, with the shot recast into 3 pencil-shaped projectiles, very useful in the short ranges prevailing in the jungle. With hindsight, one should have advocated the taiaha, with which we are told the modern infantryman is trained. Perhaps not. We carried the No5 .303 rifle, the "Jungle Carbine", a cut-down and much improved version of the No4. In particular it had an excellent little bayonet with a 7½ in blade, far better than the ridiculous meat-skewer gadget issued with its predecessor.

    A 'fish plate':
    1200px-Fishplate_UK_2006.jpg
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2020
  11. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Minor footnotes here, but a nice little reconstruction job achieved by hopping from diary to diary of 4 Indian Div at Cassio.

    Although the portering/resupply of 1/9 GR on Hangman's Hill was largely carried out by the two battalions of Raj Rifs (1/6 & 4/6) and the MMG Coy of the 6 Raj Riffs, it seems that 187 bty, 11 Fd Regt also mucked in on 17/3/44 to supply the men up there, and via a rather surprising survival, we have a list of names of those who went.

    As anybody who has read of the state of play around Cassino on this date knows, this trip was no wander through the park. As you will see below, they did a sterling job.

    One man listed below, GNR Reginald Skinner 1153960, aged 21, sadly, did not make it back:

    Details:
    Casualty Details | CWGC

    Extracted from: WO 170/927: 11 Fd. Regt 1944 Jan.- Dec.

    Screenshot 2020-08-10 at 00.40.52.png Screenshot 2020-08-10 at 00.41.28.jpg

    And the time of return:

    Screenshot 2020-08-10 at 02.11.41.png

    The divisional diary, I think, refers to a second resupply attempt from 1 Field Regt on the same day.

    Extracted from: WO 169/18776 4 Indian Division General Staff Jan, Apr-Jun 1944

    Screenshot 2020-08-10 at 01.09.14.png

    The 4/6 Raj Rifs' diary manages to get both the name wrong, I think (Collins/Collinge), although it does furnish us with some useful details:

    Extracted from: WO 169/18970 4/6 Rajputana Rifles 1944 Jan.- Aug.

    Screenshot 2020-08-10 at 03.44.34.png Screenshot 2020-08-10 at 03.45.17.png

    Nighfall was around 1800, loading began at 1830 and the party set off at 1900.

    And then the plan went off the rails and had to be salvaged:

    Screenshot 2020-08-10 at 03.54.25.png
    Screenshot 2020-08-10 at 03.55.20.png

    1 Field Regt's Diary for 17/3 to 18/3 provides more useful information about the timing:
    1 Fd Regt RA at Cassino - March 44

    1430hrs
    Arrangements were made to send up 22 Set Batteries to Major Howland MC by carrying party Knight and he was instructed to open up his set only when needed in order to save his batteries⊙ During the afternoon the front was quieter and there was little to report⊙

    2250hrs
    The C.O. from Tac HQ advised that a maintenance Group under Lieut Collinge RA 11 Bty was to attempt to get through to Major Howland during the night with Btys food + ammo⊙ Also that the NZ Infantry were going to establish a company on Pt 202 starting at 0500hrs 18 march⊙ Otherwise NTR save for Monastery fire until midnight. Another dark and wet night⊙

    0030hrs
    Major Gibson from Pt 193 reported that all was quiet on his front and that the Maintenance Group had passed him⊙ at 0220 he reported that the Maintenance Group were being attacked and the escorting company from 4/6 Raj Rifs were fighting their way through but were experiencing considerable light automatic fire from the lower slopes of Monastery Hill.

    0630hrs
    Major Oswald reported that Lieut Collinge had still not returned from his journey to Pt 435 to take supplies to Major Howland⊙ Enemy shelled Monastery Garden heavily⊙

    0650hrs
    Major Howland reported that Lieut Collinge had reached them also that they had taken 10 more P.W. all Parachutists seemingly very tired⊙
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2020
    JimHerriot likes this.
  12. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

  13. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Appreciated.

    I had the citation, of course, but there's some biographical and personal details I didn't have.

    (I had no idea that a 'standard' rack with the addition of an MM sold for so much--though they do seem to be in excellent condition).
     
  14. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    glad it was of interest CF. Yes, a pretty penny. As more and more WW2 groups become available the prices of these gallantry awards seem to grow.
     
  15. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    The bump of the thread reminds me of something. The bidding went beyond my means, but I managed to snag a screenshot of this picture that came up on eBay. As you can see, Colonel Noble, commanding officer of 1/4th Essex features (two seats to Queen Mother's right) at the time he was Honorary Colonel of the Essex Regiment.

    Click to Enlarge.

    Officers of Essex Regiment and Queen Mother, 1964.jpg
     
  16. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Mike, many apologies for the very late response to this.

    I think you must have posted it when I was away, and then other posts were made that 'pushed' the thread onto another page and I never spotted it. We were, you may recall, in touch a few years ago by email ("Charley Fortnum" being a pseudonym).

    I'm very interested in the book on SmithCol you link to and intend to track down a copy. If you feel able to post your father's submission about the action at Minqar Qaim, I and others here would certainly be interested to read it.

    Similarly, the photos of Ruweisat are valuable to me as I have such a hazy mental picture of the setting of what was, for most of the battalion, their first taste of battle.

    I'll keep my eye open for more photographs of your father--it is possible that I have some sitting in boxes in my spare room.

    I have just obtained some poems written by a 2/5 Essex man in Freetown. As you know, this battalion was there with 1/4 Essex under 161 Brigade 1940-41. Once I get a chance to read them, I'll forward copies to you if you are interested.

    8919717031_49b3a21070_z.jpg

    Peter McIntyre, 'The breakthrough, Minqar Qa'im, 27-28 June 1942'

    Surrounded by fast-moving German forces and facing defeat, the encircled New Zealand Division launched a spectacular breakout at Minqar Qaim on the night of 27-28 June 1942.

    "In the aftermath of Crusader, the New Zealanders licked their wounds back in Egypt" notes nzhistory.net.nz. "With 879 dead and 1700 wounded, the New Zealand Division had fought its most costly battle of the war. In February 1942, at the New Zealand government's insistence, they moved to Syria to recover." However when Rommel launched a fresh offensive in the Western Desert, the Division was recalled and moved to face the advancing forces. It was then the Division was surrounded.

    That night, a plan was formulated to breakout of the encirclement. Led by the 4th Brigade, the New Zealand Division burst through the ring of German forces. In confused and ferocious close-quarter combat the New Zealanders bayoneted and shot their way through the enemy. Infantry was followed by hundreds of vehicles, driving at full pace with orders not to stop for anything. 'The breakthrough, Minqar Qa'im, 27-28 June 1942' by New Zealand war artist Peter McIntyre strikingly captures this event on canvas, and is part of the National Collection of War Art. This collection is under the care of Archives New Zealand and is comprised of about 1,500 artworks. It includes both official pieces of war art, by artists formally commissioned by the New Zealand government, and other unofficial art works that were acquired by or donated to the collection.


    Source:
    Peter McIntyre, 'The breakthrough, Minqar Qa'im, 27-28 June 1942'
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2020
  17. Justin Smith

    Justin Smith New Member

    I don't know if this fascinating thread is still active, but I've just caught up with it.

    I'm researching my father Ron Smith.

    Pte. R. Smith 6024738,
    1/4th Battalion
    The Essex Regt.,
    2 Plt, A Coy.

    I'm focussing for now on 1/4th after Cassino and am trying to discover the locations of the following: 198 Transit Camp and 5/IRTD. Any ideas?

    R.Smith_1944.jpg
     
  18. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    It very much is active and I'm very glad to find you have posted here.

    It looks as if your father joined the battalion while they were still on Ruweisat Ridge. I don't immediately know the locations of the camp/depot, but I'll take a look.

    I'll be in touch by Private Message shortly.
     
  19. Mike Young

    Mike Young New Member

    Hi Charley / James

    Many thanks indeed for your post of 20 September. I was glad to find out that you are the James E with whom I corresponded previously. I much appreciated all the material you sent me privately in 2016.

    Looking back at that correspondence I see that I left it hanging – I’m very sorry about that. We had moved back to GB in Sept 2016 after 25 years abroad so other priorities took over. I still have to follow up some of your information and if you need any clarification of the material I sent to you do let me know.

    I have dug out my father’s old papers and assembled the various correspondence etc about the WW2 Battle Honours in the three pdfs attached. He, with Arthur Noble, Leonard Chappell and V C Magill-Guerden comprised the subcommittee that in 1956 made the recommendations on behalf of 4 Essex to the central regimental battle honours committee.

    These papers include the submission for a battle honour for the Minqar Qaim action in June 1942, which was ultimately judged ineligible as less than 50% of the Bn took part.

    Now that I've sorted them out I'll be sending the originals through to the ER Museum in Chelmsford for their archive.

    And yes, I’d like to see those poems from Freetown that you mention, please.

    I’d be very happy to supply any other information or photos that I might have of this period to anyone interested.

    Best wishes

    Mike Young

     

    Attached Files:

    Charley Fortnum likes this.
  20. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Mike,

    I'm most grateful for these. As you can see from the earlier pages of this thread, my grandfather was a member of B-Coy and, accordingly, I have a particular interest in the action at Minqar Qaim.

    I've written back to you by email.

    I assume you saw the recent-ish publication on ROBCOL at Ruweisat?

    It's a somewhat frustrating read--repetitive, and more of a research file than a page-turner--but much of the detail is new to me and valuable.
     

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